|11-8-11 NJEA Releases its Education Reform Proposals Prior to its Convention this Week in Atlantic City|
Press of Atlantic City - Reform plan tops agenda as teachers prepare for convention in Atlantic City Asbury Park Press - NJEA offers its ideas for school reform: Would streamline firing steps; expand preschool, kindergarten
Asbury Park Press - NJEA offers its ideas for school reform: Would streamline firing steps; expand preschool, kindergarten
Associated Press - Philadelphia Inquirer - NJ's main teachers union presenting its own ideas... AP - Education reform ideas: Christie v. NJEA
Press of Atlantic City - Reform plan tops agenda as teachers prepare for convention in Atlantic City
Updated: 6:26 am, Tue Nov 8, 2011.
Thousands of teachers will be welcomed by the New Jersey Education Association at its annual convention Thursday and Friday in Atlantic City with an education-reform plan that the union also is taking to the Statehouse in Trenton this month.
The NJEA's proposals, if they get support in the Legislature, will go up against bills already introduced and supported by Gov. Chris Christie and could make for a lively post-election lame-duck session. The NJEA also is challenging legislators to be a "Teacher for a Day" in their districts, during which they will write lesson plans, teach classes and maybe even take on cafeteria duty.
"Anyone who votes on these bills should do the job first to see what it involves," NJEA spokesman Steve Baker said.
NJEA Executive Director Vincent Giordano alluded to the proposals last month during the New Jersey School Boards Conference when he said the union would endorse a plan to add a fourth year of teaching before tenure is granted, but only if the first year is treated as a residency in which the teacher is matched with an experienced teacher and the second year included a mentor.
But the NJEA's plan also includes other proposals, such as full access to preschool and full-day kindergarten, and raising the age of mandatory school attendance from 16 to 18. The NJEA supports the expansion of the public-school choice program and more accountability for charter schools. But it opposes the proposed Opportunity Scholarship Act that would provide scholarships for students in failing public schools to attend private schools.
Baker said the association does not have a legislative sponsor yet for its proposals, called "Educators in the Lead: Real Reform for Real Results." He said there are some existing bills they could support, but that some - including the tenure and evaluation proposals - are different enough from existing bills that they would require entirely new legislation.
Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, Union, has introduced a bill that would extend the tenure process to four years but does not include the residency provisions. Christie has supported a plan that would give teachers tenure in three years but would remove it if they subsequently have two years of poor evaluations.
"We want our membership to have a voice in the process and be part of the discussion," Baker said.
The theme of this year's convention is "Creating a Better Tomorrow." Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf is scheduled to speak at the conference Friday morning. He said last month at the school boards conference that he would be willing to listen to any proposals but said the costs also must be addressed.
Baker said the cost of the proposed teacher evaluation should be addressed, since student test scores are a major component. He said that since not every grade or subject is tested, the cost to add new tests would be considerable and might not be the best use of state funds.
"We want the discussion to be around the best ways to provide education," Baker said. "Obviously, we have to ask how we will pay for them. But it is the Legislature that will decide what are the priorities and what is worth the investment."
New Jersey School Boards Association spokesman Frank Belluscio said the NJEA plan has some proposals the school boards group would support and some it would not, as well as others it would have to study further.
The School Boards Association supports renewable tenure every five years and teacher evaluations that are fair but grounded in student performance.
"The (NJEA plan) does not get to the root of the problem -lifetime job protection that does not exist in other employment areas and which makes it exceedingly difficult to remove a teacher for poor job performance," Belluscio wrote in a email.
He said the School Boards Association acknowledges the benefits of preschool and full-day kindergarten, but added that the economic climate has forced some districts to consider scaling back full-day kindergarten to half-day programs. The state provides aid for half-day programs only, and only about 130 low-income districts have publicly funded preschool.
The NJEA reform plan
Following are highlights from the "Educators in the Lead: Real Reform for Real Results" plan proposed by the New Jersey Education Association:
Tenure: Tenure after four years with a first-year residency and second-year mentoring
Evaluations: Four times a year for nontenured teachers, twice a year for tenured teachers, with student test scores as a lesser factor
School choice: Increase magnet schools and public-school choice. Expand accountability for charter schools. Opposes Opportunity Scholarship Act to pay for students in failing public schools to attend private schools, but supports letting private schools convert to charters.
Early childhood: Get funding for preschool expansion back on track and require every district to offer full-day kindergarten
High school graduation: Make school compulsory until age 18 or graduation - rather than 16 - to reduce dropouts
Parental involvement: Give parents 24-hour unpaid leave to attend school functions during the work day without jeopardizing their jobs
Source: New Jersey Education Association Contact Diane D'Amico: 609-272-741
Asbury Park Press - NJEA offers its ideas for school reform: Would streamline firing steps; expand preschool, kindergarten
Would streamline firing steps; expand preschool, kindergarten
6:03 AM, Nov. 8, 2011 |
THE UNION’S PROPOSAL
The NJEA reform ideas include more frequent performance reviews for all teachers, including those with tenure, and a streamlined process for removing tenured teachers who are found to be ineffective.
TRENTON — The state’s largest teachers union said Monday it would support a streamlined process to fire ineffective tenured teachers, but it also unveiled a package of proposals that would require a considerable increase in funding for public schools.
In addition to revamped tenure rules, the New Jersey Education Association called for an increase in preschool programs and full-day kindergarten, smaller class sizes for elementary schools, and new state grants to pay for parental involvement initiatives.
The package comes as state officials have signaled that education reform measures would move through the Legislature this fall. The NJEA lost a key battle over pension and benefit reform legislation in June and is looking to regroup on tenure reform, charter schools and school voucher bills.
Lynne Strickland, director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, which lobbies for suburban school districts, said she was doubtful the NJEA package would be received enthusiastically while money remains tight.
“It’s positive that they’re talking education issues at the top of the agenda,” Strickland said, and then added: “You’re talking billions of dollars. There are a lot of big ideas. Will there be enough money to support some of them?”
Steve Baker, a spokesman for the NJEA, said the proposals reflect what educational research shows is effective for student learning. The union did not develop a cost estimate for the programs, he added.
“We’re making the argument that, if you’re going to talk about education reform, let us look at the things that are demonstrated to be effective,” Baker said. “If you want to talk about what’s best for students, what will help student outcomes, these are the things you should be pursuing.”
Baker said it would be up to the Legislature to prioritize funding for the programs.
In its package, the NJEA said:
Cases against tenured teachers should be judged by an arbitrator and decided quickly under shortened timelines for preparing, hearing and ruling on the cases. State officials have long said that current rules make it practically impossible to fire bad teachers.
Nontenured teachers should be evaluated four times a year, while tenured teachers should be reviewed twice. Tenured teachers rated ineffective who are unable or unwilling to improve could be fired.
All school districts should have full-day kindergarten and many more should offer preschool classes, which is similar to earlier proposals by former Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine.
School districts should receive state grants for parental involvement programs, and the state should pass a law that would require businesses to grant up to 24 hours of unpaid leave to workers so parents can attend school functions.
The NJEA has battled publicly with Gov. Chris Christie’s administration since the Republican took office in January 2010. Citing falling tax revenues, Christie exhorted the teachers to voluntarily take a pay freeze that year, which the union refused.
Then this spring, Christie and state Democratic legislative leaders pushed through changes to pensions and benefits. The NJEA, along with other unions, fought the measures every step of way.
This fall, the NJEA has limited its considerable campaign contributions to only staunch allies in the Legislature. At the same time, however, top leadership has conducted a series of private meetings with South Jersey Democratic power broker George E. Norcross III and Christie’s acting education commissioner, Christopher Cerf.
Christie and Cerf seek to put in place a system that would force teachers to remain effective in order to retain tenure, as well as a faster procedure for firing bad ones. Cerf is scheduled to talk to teachers at their annual convention in Atlantic City this Friday.
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said Monday that the NJEA’s effort was not comprehensive enough.
“While it is good to see the NJEA moving in the right direction, and basically admitting that change is coming, its proposals are, once again, far too weak and do not represent true reform,” Drewniak said.
The administration wants to expand the number of charter schools and pass a limited school voucher program. The administration is testing teacher evaluation programs in 11 districts. State Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, also has introduced another tenure reform bill.
In a statement Monday, the New Jersey School Boards Association said it backed the concept of renewable tenure, and said tenure should not be construed as lifetime job protection. The association said the education commissioner should have the authority to decide tenure dismissal cases.
NJ's main teachers union presenting its own ideas
Long cast as defender of the status quo, New Jersey's teachers union has begun presenting its own ideas for major changes to the state's public school system.
"No one has more invested in the success of our students and our public schools than NJEA members," said Barbara Keshishian, president of the New Jersey Education Association, which represents nearly 170,000 teachers and other school employees.
The union has clashed consistently with Gov. Chris Christie since before he took office in January 2010. Some of the Republican's biggest policy accomplishments have had a big effect on teachers. Thousands of them were laid off when he cut about $1 billion last year from the state's subsidy for local schools. At the time, he lambasted unions, saying it was their fault for not taking contract concessions.
He also has imposed a cap on property tax growth and forced teachers and other public employees to make bigger contributions to their retirement and health insurance plans.
New Jersey, a well-educated, high-income state, consistently ranks near the top in the nation on scores on standardized tests. But those numbers , pushed hard by the teachers union , come with a couple of complicated issues. For one, it costs the state's taxpayers. The average homeowner's property tax bill is more than $7,500 , the highest in the nation. And there remains a big performance gap between schools in the suburbs and those in the cities. Because of court rulings, those urban districts get most of the state's education subsidies and rank near the top in cost per student.
Christie has not made as much of a mark so far in education policy. His reform plans are likely to be a top priority after Tuesday's state legislative elections. Democrats control both chambers of the state Legislature and are expected to continue to do so after new members are sworn in in January.
Christie supports measures to undo some job protections for teachers and to use some public money to pay for student scholarships to private schools, among other changes.
The teachers' plans, which came out ahead of the union's convention in Atlantic City this week, acknowledge some of the same issues , but offer alternative solutions.
Currently, teachers receive tenure after three years. Christie wants to make it easier to revoke tenure for educators who receive low evaluations. The union's proposal calls for not offering it until teachers have been in place for four years. The teachers also want to make it easier for experienced ones to attain tenure if they change school districts.
The proposal also calls for requiring full-day kindergarten statewide. Currently, many more affluent districts offer only half-day kindergarten.
The union also opposes using public funds to pay for private-school scholarships and giving for-profit education management companies any roles in running New Jersey schools.
The union says it's looking for lawmakers to sponsor bills that would turn its ideas into law.
A spokesman for Christie did not have an immediate response Monday to the NJEA's proposals.
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Associated Press – Philadelphia Inquirer - Education reform ideas: Christie v. NJEA
ALSO ON PHILLY.COM
Gov. Chris Christie is expected to make education policy a top legislative priority in weeks to come. The New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers union and one of Christie's chief adversaries, has released its own platform of ideas to change the school system.
Here's a look at the contrasting ideas on some major issues:
Christie: Tenure would no longer be permanent for teachers who receive it. Teachers could lose tenure based on their evaluations.
NJEA: Require teachers to work for four years, instead of the current three, before being eligible for tenure. A mentor would be required in the first year. The union had already proposed moving tenure charge cases from courts to an arbitrator, saying they would be decided more quickly that way.
Christie: Allow students easier movement to other public schools. Use corporate tax credits to fund scholarships that students in some low-performing districts could use to pay tuition at other public or private schools.
NJEA: Let some colleges approve and regulate charter schools and broaden existing options within school districts or in other public schools. Do not use public money for scholarships to private schools.
Christie: Base a large portion of retooled teacher evaluation system on measurable standards, such as students' improvement on standardized tests.
NJEA: Do not rely more heavily on standardized tests.
RECRUITING TEACHERS TO TROUBLED SCHOOLS
Christie: Allow low-performing districts to pay higher salaries for top teachers moving from other districts.
NJEA: Experienced teachers who switch school districts would be eligible for tenure in two years instead of the current three.
Christie: Pay teachers partially based on student outcomes, such as performance on standardized tests.
NJEA: The union has opposed singling out individual teachers for merit pay based on test scores. Its new plan calls for teacher leaders to be appointed and eligible for higher salaries, a concept similar to one Christie supports.
Christie: Have education management organizations , possibly including for-profit companies , run some struggling schools.
NJEA: Do not allow for-profit firms to run public schools in the state.
Garden State Coalition of Schools